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A Glossary of Long Distance Terms and Definitions

Okay, you want to get the best long distance deal you can from those sneaky carriers, right? But it is so darn confusing. Some of the less reputable companies donít want you to know what everything means; they want to keep you in the dark so they can get away with overcharging. Donít let them get away with it! Here is some help in understanding some terms and phrases youíve seen often (probably on your bill) but donít really understand:

  • 800 Number Monthly Fees
    This is a fixed amount charge for you to have a toll-free personal 800 number or numbers.

  • 800 Number Rates
    If you have a personal toll-free 800 number, you are charged for the calls to this number as the receiver, rather than the per-minute charge being paid by the caller.

  • Access Charges
    These are the fees that local carriers charge for using the local network to send and receive long distance calls. They can be both to the long distance carrier and to the consumer; the latter is a flat monthly charge that may be known as a SLC (Subscriber Line Charge). See also PICC.

  • Billing Address
    The address to which your long distance bill will be sent.

  • Billing Increments
    These are the increments used by your carrier to round-off the bills you pay. If they are one minute increments a 45 seconds call will be charged as for a 60 seconds call. If you have six seconds increments then that same 45 seconds call will instead be rounded off to a 48 seconds call charge.

  • Broadband
    The name for the latest high-speed digital integrated delivery systems. They allow the customer to receive audio, video, data and interactive services from the same provider or multiple providers all at once.

  • Bundling
    A marketing term that combines related telecom services for a joint bill which is less than the total of the combined bills added together.

  • Calling Card Rate
    The charge per-minute of any long distance calling cards linked to your account. This is usually steeper than your normal long distance rate (to make you pay more for the added convenience).

  • Cramming
    An illegal activity by unscrupulous long distance carriers who bill you for additional services that you did not request. If you have been crammed, contact the FCC! See also Slamming.

  • Deaveraging
    This means that charges in different locations may vary for the same service received. This is because it is more expensive to provide certain services in some areas than others.

  • Directory Assistance Service
    This is a service usually but not always with a fee attached, that allows you to gain access to a database of directories and listings.

  • Enhanced Service
    Services like voicemail and call-waiting. Again, usually charged extra for, but sometimes offered free as an incentive by your long distance carrier.

  • Facilities-Based Carrier
    Long distance telephone companies that own, use and install their own networks and facilities rather than resellers who lease from other carriers. (In other words; the big hitters. Though, these are not by any means, necessarily the best bet for good deals. Some of the resellers may want your custom a whole lot more.)

  • FCC - Federal Communications Commission
    The main government regulator for long distance telephone carriers.

  • Fiber-Optic Cables
    These are cables made up of a multitude of extremely thin and extra clear glass fibers. Digital data travels down them in pulses of light. They are essential for all modern telecom industry services around the developed world.

  • InterLata Rates
    A LATA stands for Local Access Transport Area. These are geographic regions from where long distance calls are sent and received. Many states have more than one LATA, and these rates are for calls between LATAís but within the same state. They are also known as Intrastate or in-state.

  • IntraLata Rates
    These are rates for calls that require long distance access even though they are within the same area code as the caller. They are also known as local toll or local long distance.

  • Interstate Rates
    This is the charge for calls you make to other states. Also referred to as state-to-state or out-of-state.

  • IXC
    This stands for Interexchange Carrier, and is the standard term for all long distance telephone carriers in the U.S.

  • Less Than Minimum Penalty
    If you have a call plan where you have less per-minute charges but a required monthly minimum charge for them. This is what you pay if you do not reach the minimum call charge for that month.

  • LOA - Letter Of Agency
    This is a form some long distance companies require you to sign when switching to a new carrier.

  • LATA - Local Access Transport Area
    See InterLata Rates

  • Local Toll Calls
    See IntraLata Rates

  • Mobile Rates
    This is a charge for calling mobile phones (cell phones) in other countries if your long distance provider makes a distinction between them and international landlines. Some do and some donít.

  • Monthly Business Line Charge
    Your phone company may or may not charge this for every business line a subscriber has.

  • Monthly Fee
    A fixed rate fee charged monthly by your long distance carrier to remain with them irrespective of your call history for that month.

  • Monthly Minimum
    A minimum of dollar usage of your long distance per month with certain call plans.

  • Monthly Minimum To Avoid Penalty
    What you must pay every month to avoid a surcharge for low usage. Better per-minute rates can be achieved this way with some call plans.

  • MRC - Monthly Recurring Cost
    A fixed charge that must be paid for some services that are not billed according to amount of use.

  • NPA - Numbering Plan Area
    The correct term for what is nearly always known as the area code (the first three numbers of a telephone number).

  • Number Portability
    The service that allows the retention of your number when switching to a different phone company.

  • Off-Peak
    This is the time between 7pm and 7am in the U.S. on weekdays (6pm and 6am in some countries) when the cost of phone calls is cheaper because of lower volume. The same as weekend rates or Saturday/Sunday rates. Note that in some countries the weekend rates and evening rates may not be the same as each other though both are always less than the regular rate. Also note that most long distance providers in the U.S. have a flat rate irrespective of day or time of day (though not all!)

  • Originating Calls
    Long distance or local calls made from your phone line.

  • Peak-Rate
    The time between 7am and 7pm in the U.S. on weekdays. (6am and 6pm in some countries).

  • PICC - Primary Interexchange Carrier Charge
    These are fees that long distance carriers are billed by the local telephone companies (LECís or Local Exchange Carriers) for using their local networks to send and receive long distance calls. Almost all the long distance companies then recover this by charging the user (you). See also Access Charges.

  • RBOC - Regional Bell Operating Companies
    The Ďbaby bellsí. The original seven phone companies created when AT&T were broken up.

  • RespOrg - Responsible
    This is the company accountable for conveying and organizing 1-800 numbers. If you have one of these and switch carriers you should sign a form from them or you will get a different 1-800 number with your new company. See also 800 Number Monthly Fees and 800 Number Rates.

  • Saturday Rate
    See Off-Peak.

  • Service Address
    This is the address where your phone line is located.

  • Slamming
    Another illegal activity against you where your long distance or local service carrier changes without your knowledge and consent. See also Cramming. And again; if it happens to you, get on to the FCC or local Better Business Bureau immediately! There is a way to prevent this from happening in the first place. Contact the customer service offices of your long distance and local carriers, and ask for a PIC freeze to be placed on your account.

  • Sunday Rate
    See Off-Peak.

  • Switched Access Service
    The Ď1í that you dial for long distance before the number.

  • Terminating Calls
    Calls that you receive on your phone line.

  • USF Charge - Universal Service Fund
    This is a mandatory fee on your bill to provide funds for phone and internet access for all Americans through libraries, schools and health providers in out-of-the-way areas. And also to help those on low incomes with their charges.

So there you go, hopefully now a bit better informed of the confusion of long distance phone bills. Now negotiate with confidence!

About The Author

Matt Jacks is a successful freelance writer providing tips and advice for consumers purchasing or comparing international phonecards online, cell phone comparisons and Verizon DSL company. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

The "Glossary of Long Distance Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.

© 2004 - Net Guides Publishing, Inc.

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